Eden Underground: Alessandro Manzetti’s Devil is in the Details

I had really enjoyed Venus Intervention, the haunting, award-nominated poetry collection written by the Italian poet Alessandro Manzetti with the sublime Corrine de Winter. So, when the review request came for Alessandro’s solo collection, Eden Underground, I was happy to take a look.

edenAnd, oh, is it a long, dark look into an abyss of nightmarish images. I was not disappointed. Alessandro has enough imagination to fuel a carnival of depravity ten years long.

I guess the first surprise in this collection is just how colorful Hell — or rather Eden — can be. The first poem, “The Last Prey,” opens as such:

Eva has a snake tattooed on her arm
and a blue orchid in her hair;
fossil ovaries
are carved on the buckle
of her chain mail belt;
her hands are full of blood.

Vibrant hues erupt from the surreal landscape peopled by hookers, caged men, angel snipers, drug addicts, gravediggers and many more going about the business of the cursed. At times, the surrealism is intense to the point of breakdown, such as in “Lacrimosa.” But even when I was not sure what was happening, I didn’t care because the language painted such imaginative, aching portraits.

The girl’s face is streaked by black lines,
infinite.
They are her faded thoughts, watered down,
drawing the lines of a requiem,
a white pentagram
on a black background.

As beautiful as the poems are that come before, “The Cockroach King” starts a run of truly memorable, wickedly delightful pieces. “Dames de Voyage” might be my favorite with its twist on the scary doll theme. Do skip “Electric Monkeys” if you’re sensitive to images of animal testing, but it should disturb you. Alessandro clearly chooses each image with the care of a mad uncle building his most beloved niece a dollhouse of the damned. The devil is in the details, indeed.

As dazzling as this collection is, truth be told, by the time I reached “The Pawn Shop,” the number of hookers and whores in the poetry felt excessive. In the collection’s defense, we are talking about Eden, which is where humanity’s innocence was corrupted. So, it makes sense that madonnas are thin on the page. Still, there are plenty of ways for young women to lose their innocence. Eve’s dark side has knives with unexplored edges.

Maybe next time. Eden and its rotting garden will always be there.

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